A step too far? The politics of the rights and responsibilities of performance athletes.

Authors: Adams, A. and Kavanagh, E.

Conference: Political Studies Association, Sport and Politics Group,

Dates: 21-22 February 2014


When considering human rights in sport it is perhaps easy to overlook some of the deeper issues that play on how a procedure of ethics should operate for high performance adult athletes. The ideas of Kant (Sen, 2004) concerning perfect and imperfect obligations are a useful stepping stone to aid deliberations of how systems should operate ethically in a broader rush for elite sport – commonly cited as the ‘global sports arms race’ (Green and Oakley). Certainly it has been documented that there is a growing moral deficit in sport (Auwheele, 2010) involving a whole range of transgressive practices. The purpose of this paper is to provide an exploration of the political opportunity structures that enable and contain the drivers of these practices and to question where responsibility lies for establishing a more coherent political and policy driven approach to ensuring that high performance athletes are not exploited in the name of consumerised and commodified sporting practice. A contrasting picture is to be found in recent calls to end ‘child physical activity neglect’ and ‘develop a strategy of substance’ (Weiler et al, 2013) in response to an on-going lack of child physical activity policy in schools, which Weiler et al argue is an overlooked case of child neglect. Thus in the UK we appear to have policy practice converging with policy content diverging when considering the two ends of the participation spectrum. Although we focus on performance athletes the broader context of encouraging and enabling participation provides a backdrop from which to establish a deeper understanding of the political issues.

Source: Manual

Preferred by: Emma Kavanagh